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Unregistered designs: Open and shut case (Brands & IP Newsnotes - issue 4)

08 February 2017

In a recent case, Action Storage (a producer of lockers, such as the ones installed in schools) sued G-Force (another producer of lockers) for infringing its design rights in producing a similar product.

The judgment will be an interesting read for anyone looking for a thorough explanation of the law of unregistered designs. However, for those with less time, here is a summary of what the judge found:

  • Where parties are bringing infringement proceedings, they should set out clearly in their claim each element of the design that they rely on
  • The product produced by Action Storage was original and not commonplace, even though it was based on a product produced by a third party
  • Certain elements of the allegedly infringing product were not protected as they were required to make the lockers fit together with others
  • However, there were various elements of the design of the Action Storage lockers which had been copied by G-Force, and therefore Action Storage’s unregistered designs had been infringed.

With the increasing antipathy of the courts to the registration of shapes as trade marks, this case is a timely reminder of other options that are available to manufacturers and brand owners. Such manufacturers and brand owners should check that they have records of how their products have been created so that, for example, they can fight off challenges that the product was copied or is commonplace.

 This article was first published in the Brands & IP newsnotes publication - issue 4

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